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Activists, aldermen propose immigration reform amendment

The amendment would expand the ordinance to protect all immigrants regardless of their immigration status, according to Van Huynh (at lectern), a National Asian Pacific American Bar Association Law Foundation community law fellow. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times

Immigration activists and aldermen from the Latino, Progressive and Asian caucuses proposed an amendment to Chicago’s Welcoming City Ordinance on Monday during a press conference at City Hall that would improve protections for immigrants living in Chicago.

The Welcoming City Ordinance was passed by City Council in 2012 to prevent some undocumented immigrants from being detained or deported after coming into contact with police or other city employees. This amendment would expand the ordinance to protect all immigrants regardless of their immigration status, according to Van Huynh, a National Asian Pacific American Bar Association Law Foundation community law fellow.

“In 2012, when the Welcoming City Ordinance was passed, one of its stated goals was to make Chicago the most immigrant-friendly city in the word,” Huynh said. “However, since then, the City of Chicago is falling behind other major cities.”

Huynh explained that the amendment would prohibit city employees, including police officers, from threatening deportation or questioning immigration status of anyone or a family; redefine comments or threats based on someone’s immigration status as “verbal abuse” or “coercion” in some cases; and update the ordinance’s language that is “archaic and inconsistent” with its original purpose.

“These changes will help to foster trust between the city and immigrant communities by ensuring immigrants can confidently engage with city agencies without the fear of deportation,” she said.

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) said conversation with the mayor’s office has been “fruitful and good” and they will continue to work with his office in the coming months to pass the proposed amendment.

He said protections for immigrant families are important especially now as the Republican National Convention begins this week and the presidential election approaches in November.

“Today the Republicans are kicking off their hate fest in Ohio, where we will have people like Donald Trump and his minions spew all types of anti-immigrant rhetoric,” Ramirez-Rosa said. “But here in Chicago we are fighting back.”

Ald. George Cardenas (12th), who immigrated to the United States with his family as a child, said improving the ordinance is a human rights issue that must be addressed.

Ald. George Cardenas (12th) speaks about his experience coming to Chicago as an immigrant. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times
Ald. George Cardenas (12th) speaks about his experience coming to Chicago as an immigrant. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times

“I came here and made a life that was good for my family and the future of my family, and that’s what every immigrant should be entitled to,” Cardenas said. “Any immigrant who works hard, pays his fair share of taxes and does right by his community has a right to live in harmony and be accepted by society.”

Chicago resident Maria Moreno, speaking in favor of the amendment, shared how it could affect her family. Moreno’s father, Jose Juan Federico Moreno, has been in sanctuary at University Church in Hyde Park since April, when Immigration and Customs Enforcement asked him to self-deport to Mexico. Moreno was targeted for deportation after he was charged with aggravated DUI in 2009.

“Like my case, there’s several other cases where the police or other authorities collaborate with ICE and it results in the separation of many families,” she said. “It is unjust that they want to separate me from my father. . . . I’m here to ask the mayor to do everything in his power so that immigrants are safe in Chicago whether or not they have a legal status.”